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Ip Man - The Final Fight
Ip Man - The Final Fight

Anthony Wong is Ip Man in Ip Man - The Final Fight.
Chinese: 葉問-終極一戰  
Year: 2013  
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To  
Producer: Checkley Sin Kwok-Lam, Albert Lee, Cherry Law, Catherine Hun
Writer: Erica Li Man
Action: Li Chung-Chi, Checkley Sin Kwok-Lam
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Timmy Hung Tin-Ming, Gillian Chung Yun-Tung, Jiang Lu-Xia, Zhou Chuchu, Marvel Chow, Donny Ng, Anita Yuen Wing-Yee, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Xiong Xin-Xin, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Liu Kai-Chi, Law Koon-Lan, Zhang Song-Wen, Wong Cho-Lam, Fung Hak-On, Mang Hoi, Ip Chun
The Skinny: Despite little narrative urgency, Herman Yau's Ip Man - The Final Fight is an incisive and unpretentious portrait of the famed Wing Chun master. The nostalgic glimpse of Hong Kong in the fifties and sixties is also a plus. By concentrating on Ip Man's humility and his common values, Final Fight qualfies as the best Ip Man film by a wide margin.
 
Review
by Kozo:

You can never have too much Ip Man. Besides the blockbuster Donnie Yen films and that little Wong Kar-Wai movie, the life of Wing Chun master Ip Man has inspired a prequel, a TV drama and even a stage musical in Singapore. The latter two have yet to premiere but here to shame them all is director Herman Yauís Ip Man Ė The Final Fight, the poorly-titled but possibly best Ip Man film in this cycle of biographies. Played by Anthony Wong, this version of Ip Man is not an idealized ass-kicker or a suffering romantic. Not to knock other interpretations, but most of them clutter the usual hagiography with added concerns (nationalism, Zhang Ziyi, singing). Final Fight offers more of the man and the humanism that defined him, with only occasional detours for the ďCome at me, BroĒ moments that martial arts films require. It may not be the most commercial biopic, but Ip Man Ė The Final Fight does right by Ip Man himself.

Final Fight also gets Hong Kong right, depicting the city with authentic detail over a nearly twenty-year period from 1949 until the late 60s. The film starts with Ip Manís beginnings as a Wing Chun teacher in Hong Kong, as weíre introduced to the students who will play a role in his life, including Leung Sheung (Timmy Hung), Lee King (Jiang Luxia), Chan Sei-Mui (Gillian Chung) and Wong Tung (Marvel Chow). Issues surrounding them, such as poverty and labor disputes, help illuminate some of Ip Manís values and paint a picture of the problems plaguing British-governed Hong Kong. One student, policeman Tang Sing (Jordan Chan), encounters racism and corruption in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, and seeks advice from Ip Man. But while martial arts can impart health and wisdom, it canít help Tang with the pressure to take bribes. Ip Man can teach his students, but he has less impact on the world around him.

This depiction of Ip Man as ineffectual is realistic, and in step with Herman Yauís aims. Also responsible for the average The Legend is Born Ė Ip Man, Yau seems less concerned with hero worship than developing Ip Man through the prism of 50s-60s Hong Kong, from its social issues to its popular songs and even its culinary trends. The film was shot on an elaborately-constructed set that evokes the period with reverence and affection. Ip Manís personal problems also receive focus: politics separates Ip Man from his wife Wing Shing (Anita Yuen) and, in ensuing years, he befriends a lonely singer (Zhou Chuchu). Situations lack grand emphasis and conflicts are not always resolved. Thatís fine, however, as resolution occurs more often in movies than in real life, and the film hits its emotional peaks by showing how Ip Man responds to the world around him. Ip is ultimately defined through his perseverance, acceptance and tolerance, and Yau imparts those values with respect and humanity.

It helps greatly that Anthony Wong plays Ip Man. Unlike the male power fantasy or romantic icon seen in other biopics, Wongís Ip Man is humble and unassuming but with strong principles Ė basically the perfect dad if youíre not looking for hugs. Wong handles Ip Manís humility and inner calm well, and he also brings the action. Apart from some occasional doubling, Wong ably handles Li Chung-Chi and Checkley Sinís action design, participating in complex hand-to-hand choreography while always looking in control. Thereís a sly subversion with the casting; Anthony Wong doesnít look like the movie approximation of a grandmaster, but real-life grandmasters probably look more like Wong than Donnie Yen. A bonus moment: when Anthony Wong fights Eric Tsang, who plays Pak Hoi master Ng Chung. Their bout is short but impactful, efficiently explaining pages of Ip Manís personality and martial arts philosophy with a single scene. Also, the fight is two kind-of-dumpy guys going toe-to-toe like bosses. Donnie Yen might not approve of action this superficially unpleasing.

The filmís period focus and lack of an overarching story makes it more of a leisurely sit than other Ip Man biopics, though the action is varied and frequent enough to entertain. A short sparring match between Ip Man and Leung Sheung is an illuminating bit of Wing Chun, while a free-for-all at a lion dance competition pits Ip Man against the villainous Ngai Ba-Tin (Ken Lo). Xiong Xin-Xin appears as Dragon, the high-kicking overlord of the crime-infested Kowloon Walled City, and Yau cheekily goes meta, using faked newsreel footage and over-the-top reporting to visually enhance Dragonís fighting prowess. Ip Manís abilities also get the exaggerated kung-fu treatment when a journalist glowingly embellishes a fight between Ip and some of Ng Chungís students. The climactic fight between Ip Man and Dragon, which takes place in the Walled City during 1962ís Typhoon Wanda, brings the mixture of meta martial arts actioner, character drama and historical panorama to a rousing if unrealistic end.

Near the filmís close, one scene references Bruce Lee, widely considered to be Ip Manís most famous student, and basically throws him under the bus. Lee isnít roundly vilified but is subtly shown as a self-promoter who wants to use both Ip Man and Wing Chun for personal gain. The portrayal of Lee is telling (the film is based on the recollections of Ip Manís son Ip Chun), but so is Ip Manís: When faced with the opportunity to gain fame, Ip Man politely deflects and fades into the crowd, content to live his humble, unassuming life. Final Fight goes easy on Ip Man but it also doesnít romanticize him, and pushes the idea that a man can make his mark by being humble, disciplined and quietly forthright. These ideas clash with a title like ďThe Final FightĒ, but theyíre well-supported, resonant and very much in keeping with Herman Yau and indeed the very philosophy of Wing Chun. Ip Man Ė The Final Fight is the film that Ip Man deserves, and frankly, the Ip Man biography that we need. (Kozo, 4/2013)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
2-DVD Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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